The Washington Department of Health is still investigating this month’s E. coli outbreak that forced a Seattle restaurant to close temporarily. The Matador in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood has now reopened, but the source of the E. coli that sickened several patrons remains a mystery. Meanwhile, food safety advocates say this latest scare underscores the need for a promised restaurant grading system to be implemented quickly by public health officials.
Back in 1993, Sarah Schacht, along with her mother and little brother, was sickened in the deadly E. coli outbreak linked to undercooked hamburgers at Jack in the Box. Then, a few years ago, she contracted the food borne illness again.
“The experience of getting E. coli the second time was much worse. It was feeling like my stomach was being ripped open, I had extreme cramping and I was in and out of the hospital,” Schacht said.
She is one of the primary proponents of restaurants in King County being required to post placards showing what score they received from the health department. She sat on a stakeholders panel convened by the county to come up with a system. Although Public Health of Seattle and King County announced several years ago they were going to implement a system, it has yet to be put in place, which frustrates Schacht.
“They’ve continually rolled back deadlines for this program and so it’s been disappointing to see another outbreak and no posted signs,” Schacht said.
In response, county health officials says they want to make sure that when it launches, the grading system is consistent across eating establishments. The health department has conducted a series of studies to try and figure out how best to obtain that consistency. A grading system pilot program is scheduled to begin in January.